FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was no doubt that the Dynamo were going to bring a heavy dose of physicality to Saturday’s clash against the Revolution. And everyone in a navy uniform knew it.
But knowing the challenge and overcoming it are two very different concepts, as the Revolution failed to deal with the Dynamo’s strength and stubbornness in a 2-1 loss at Gillette Stadium.
“It was tough,” Revolution left back Chris Tierney said. “They had a game plan and that was to disrupt us in the midfield and put us under pressure.”
There was no question the Dynamo clamped down on the Revolution right from the start. Each time Diego Fagundez or Saer Sene touched the ball, a host of Houston defenders immediately swarmed, leaving little breathing room for the attack to find chances.
In fact, the true opportunity the hosts found in the first frame came in the 18th minute, when Fagundez plunged into the area on a give-and-go with Chad Barrett. The teenage midfielder found the return pass right in front of him, but he scuffed his shot and was soon blanketed by a pair of Dynamo defenders.
“We’re disappointed in the overall performance of the game,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said. “I thought we just didn’t start the game with that bright energy and that bright spark that we should have. (It) took us a little too long to get into the game.”
The first half closed without a single shot credited to the Revolution, a sign that the early energy and ambition Heaps had preached in the days leading up to the match were clearly missing. Worse, the Dynamo succeeded in making the game resemble a brawl, with Tierney taking a wild elbow to the ear from Adam Moffatt.
“It was really physical really early,” Heaps said. “Lee Nguyen got whacked hard two or three times by Ricardo Clark. You can only play; you need a little help once in a while. You need the man in the middle to say, ‘Guys, we are going to play today’. When that doesn’t happen, we need a reaction and we didn’t get it from ourselves. That’s what disappoints me.”
Meanwhile, the Dynamo weren’t content to simply knock their adversaries around and play for a draw. And that was evident only four minutes into the second half.
On a free kick from Andrew Driver, Barrett headed it away from the scrum, but not out of danger. The ball fell to Adam Moffat just outside the area, and the Dynamo midfielder immediately volleyed it into the net in the 49th minute.
With their backs suddenly against the wall, the Revolution started to shake off the physical punishment dished out by the Dynamo and stepped on the accelerator shortly after Moffatt’s strike.
In the 55th minute, Diego Fagundez took it toward the near post before he slipped it inside for Saer Sene, who tapped it through to level the match.
“I think the game just opened up (in the second half), for both teams,” Tierney said. “We knew we wanted three points so we had to push the numbers forward and it was a little more back and forth. I think we left some holes.”
The Dynamo, for their part, weren’t about to back down from the fouling and forcing the Revolution into corners. They continued to antagonize and disrupt for the duration of the half, then found time to score another in the 80th minute when Moffatt blasted another shot from distance that hit the near post, then caromed off the back of Bobby Shuttleworth before it rolled into the net.
Matters only worsened for the hosts two minutes later when Dimirty Imbongo was sent off for throwing his arm in the face of Eric Brunner. With only 10 men left to face a fierce Dynamo side, the attack could only find a couple of half-chances before the match expired.
“Credit to them, they know they’re a physical team and I don’t think we dealt with that as well as we could have,” Tierney said. “I thought we had some decent (chances) in the game when we put some stuff together, but overall I’m not sure we were good enough to take three.”